Mark D'Arcy, Parliamentary correspondent

Mark D'Arcy Parliamentary correspondent

This is where you can come for my take on what goes on in the chambers and committee rooms around Westminster

HS2 opponents prepare for battle

23 April 2014

There is a good chance of a significant rebellion against the planned high-speed rail line (HS2) from Conservative backbenchers, when the Commons returns on April 28th.

With the hot breath of Ukip on their necks (one Conservative MP is helpfully reproducing on his website Ukip's 2010 manifesto commitment to a high speed rail network) a number of MPs may feel the need to signal to their constituents that they're against, and with Labour supporting HS2, they can do so without fear of a government defeat.

The Conservative whips are probably philosophical about the prospect of many months, possibly years, of friendly fire from the irreconcilables on their benches - and with that Labour support behind them, they can afford to be.

But they should be ready to fight the first guerrilla actions the day after the second reading vote on the HS2 Bill.

Four hours have been set aside on Tuesday 29th, to debate procedural issues around the bill - and remember this will be a parliamentary marathon almost certainly extending beyond the 2015 General Election.

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Week ahead at Westminster

7 April 2014

There's still time for a soupcon of high-powered politics as MPs and peers prepare to decamp for their Easter break.

In the Commons the main debates are around the detail of the Finance Bill, and will mostly be rather ritualistic - but may be enlivened by the prospect of a bit of Coalition infighting over the tax breaks for marriage.

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Where have all the bills gone?

4 April 2014

MPs spend a lot of time at the moment grumbling about the lack of legislative action to keep them gainfully employed in the Commons - but the reasons are more complicated than just the government not serving bills up in good time.

The rules allowing Commons bills to be "carried over" from one parliamentary year to the next are supposed to smooth out the workload, but now they're helping cause a bit of a logjam.

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Week ahead at Westminster

28 March 2014

For MPs starved of legislative meat to chew on, relief is at hand. Not one, but two new bills hit the Commons next week - the Wales Bill and the Finance Bill - the measure that implements the Budget.

And on Thursday the running battle over the establishment of a Parliamentary Commission on the Civil Service continues.

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New top brass for Defence Committee

25 March 2014

The sky is dark with hats flying into the ring, in the battle for one of the top jobs in the Commons.

For sheer prestige, not to mention leverage at an important time in world affairs, the chair of the Defence Select Committee is a plum job.

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Week ahead at Westminster

21 March 2014

Quite a meaty week in prospect in the Commons, with a couple of interesting ministerial statements already promised, plus what looks likely to be a highly-charged debate on the handling of terrorist suspects from the Northern Ireland troubles.

One thing we won't be getting, though, is a vote to loosen the hunting laws. The appearance of a coy note that the House would be invited to approve "a Statutory Instrument," on Wednesday fuelled speculation that this would be the long-rumoured measure to loosen the restrictions on hunting with hounds. But it has now been confirmed that no such SI will be debated.

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Week ahead at Westminster

14 March 2014

"The House is bored!" a senior backbencher complained to me this week.

There's a certain amount of fag-end legislating to do, Lords amendments to accept and reject, and so forth, but little red legislative meat for parliamentarians to chew on. But this is Budget week, so there is, at least, a budget statement, and, eventually, a Finance Bill to come.

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Tony Benn 1925-2014

14 March 2014

The patriarch of the Labour left is dead.

Tony Benn had a long, distinguished political career - like Margaret Thatcher, he was a polarising figure, adored by his followers but feared (and loathed) by his opponents.

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Backbench dilemma

12 March 2014

An interesting test of nerve is looming for the Backbench Business Committee - the new-fangled institution that controls a chunk of Commons debating time, and parcels it out to allow discussion of concerns raised by backbench MPs.

Almost unnoticed, this week, the senior Conservative, Bernard Jenkin, came to the Committee to bid for a debate on a motion to create a Parliamentary Commission on the Civil Service.

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Week ahead at Westminster

7 March 2014

As predicted here a couple of weeks ago, the State Opening of Parliament will be late - on June 3rd - a month later than usual, to steer clear of the European and local elections in late May.

So prorogation, the formal end of the current parliamentary year, will be no later than Wednesday 21st May.

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About Mark

Mark has been a correspondent for Today in Parliament since 2002, and also presents BBC Parliament's political book review show, Book Talk.

His career has included stints at LWT's Weekend World and the Leicester Mercury. He has also produced and occasionally presented Radio 4's The Westminster Hour.

As well as being a politics nerd, he is a cricket fanatic, amateur cook and Bruce Springsteen fan.

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